Dili, City of Peace
Welcome to Dili, East Timor, the anointed “City of Peace” by José Ramos Horta, has not always been in the news for its serenity.
However, his dream is becoming a reality. Visitors will find some of the world’s best diving, plus migrating whales, international events and delicious seafood.
All of this is against a Portuguese backdrop, reminders of the Indonesian occupation and the struggles since independence.
By walking through the city you will find a variety of restaurants, bars and shops open most of the time.
You can take a walk in the main avenue; take a look at the embassies, passing through the government palace and go down to typical markets with fresh fruits and vegetables looking tasty just by their colors.
The coast of Díli is always agitated since dawn to late night.
Between the beach and the road, there are parks with palm trees, offering a great spot to refreshing with a nice and fresh coconut.
There’s a legend saying that who drinks coconut water in Timor, always comes back.
Dili is also a place of great hope, where East Timorese and people from around the world want to shed the decades of their legacy and become known for something food, something positive.
Here is also one of the best places if you want to meet the local people. Local fishermen unship all kinds of fish, shellfish and tempting lobsters at the beach, making this a reference point to find the freshest seafood in Díli.
In the afternoon, after school, the children gathered around having fun, playing football or simply running at the beach.
All day along peddlers sell some cold drinks, satay, and a few snacks. At night you can enjoy tasty grilled fish dinner at a restaurant by the sea.
The beautiful Atauro island, about 20 miles (1 hour by fast boat) to the north, can be seen from Dili East Timor.
Ferry or charter boats are available to get there.
No matter what your plans are in East Timor. Dili will play an important role in your trip.
It’s your stepping-off point for seeing the country and where you’ll buy anything you may need for your travels.
And it’s where you tap into the local juju to find out what’s really going on here and in the rest of the country.
What to do in Dili?
Arquivo & Museu da Resistência Timorense
Museum simple but very beautiful and above all very touching to be well organized. Small but very informative museum. Admission costs 1 dollar.
Installed in the building of a former colonial court and destroyed by Indonesian forces during the invasion, it is well restored.
There are videos with reports of the massacre of the Santa Cruz cemetery, testimonials and interviews of Gusmão hut.
In addition to the exhibition space, it contains other facilities such as a library and documentation center.
The complex, an ancient Indonesian-dominated museum, is dotted with fascinating sculptures and dotted with murals, making it a great place to simply stroll.
The highlight, however, is the back building where resident artists spend their time.
You will certainly find some of them and if you are willing to spend time talking, they will be happy to answer questions and give you some local coffee.
Nice atmosphere, interesting people. Lots of art and music. It is worth checking and still carry with you some souvenir made by them.
Cemetery of Santa Cruz
It is true that a cemetery has the same symbolic burden in any part of the world, but this, for all that happened (massacre by the Indonesian soldiers, before the unarmed Timorese people who looked for refuge), it becomes a chilling place for who has those images in the head, or is interested in the true history of a people.
Today, this colorful cemetery, because it is completely overcrowded, no longer receives more bodies. It is difficult to walk between the tombs without stepping on any tombstone, but that is also what makes this space special … Strange and creepy, but unavoidable on the visit!
The historical site of great emotional load that we feel in every meter we visit. Well treated and close to the city center. You can not visit Dili and not going to this cemetery.
One of East Timor’s postcards has a wonderful view of two pristine beaches.
The location is super easy and you can hire Microlet (small vans) to take them to the foot of the hill where you will climb a few flights of stairs until you reach the top of the hill.
The ascent to the Christ-King has the various stations of the Way of the Cross and is made by a path composed by 860 steps – in simpler batches and in others, in the end, more difficult. It’s worth the effort.
On Sundays it is an attraction for the local families.
Immaculate Conception Cathedral
The Christian catholic presence in Timor and the faith of its people is something magical, after all it is bordered by the largest Muslim country, and even after the oppression suffered, keeps its faith alive.
Cathedral with an exterior architecture to refer to the traditional Timorese architecture. The geometry of the roofs and the dynamism of the facade is really very interesting. Its decor is simple, very much in keeping with the economic situation of the country. However, the beauty of the extensive number of bright and modern stained glass windows is noteworthy.
The second largest cathedral in Asia always has activities aimed at young people and adults, who usually occupy the space in front of the main entrance.
Well worth your visit.
Largo de Lecidere
If you want a real taste of Dili then you should definitely take a stroll through this park. Or more than one, in fact, how different it is throughout the day.
This popular public beachfront area extends basically from the east side of the harbor in front of the Government Palace (although there is also a popular park on the west side of the harbor) about a mile east of the next river.
The center of Lecidere Square is the part with the wavy shelters in front of a park. These shelters have free wifi but it is very slow and usually clogged with people sitting around trying to use it. Further east is partially blocked by the horrible New Tourism restaurant and then there is a market but also has the great City Beach restaurant.
This is where the locals meet. It is busy every afternoon and evening with locals and is a great place to watch the action and enjoy the view of Atauro. This is where young people go out, this is where locals have their little shops, often no more than a bamboo rug with some items, and this is where people meet at night for a barbecue or an evening drink.
If there is some kind of event here or at the Palacio, such as a show or market or activities for children, definitely stop off as they always have lots of local families and expats leaving for the party.
Pope John Paul II Statue
A place to visit in Dili is not only for the beautiful statue of the Pope but also for the magnificent view over Dili and its bay. It is still a place where in the existing chapel there may be some moments of recollection and prayer.
It is worth visiting to see the three lakes, the airport lane, the immensity of the sea, tree species and animals, the beautiful chapel and the sculpture in honor of the visit of Pope John Paul II.
There are also many people doing physical exercise in this mixture of gratitude of faith, tremendous sight, and the endless blue sea.
Tais cloth is a form of traditional weaving created by the women of East Timor. An essential part of the nation’s cultural heritage.
The place is very simple, several tents that offer Tais of diverse regions of the Timor to varied prices and qualities, besides some other types of crafts of Timor.
You have to have time to choose calmly, because the offer is great.
Tais market is open air, so going on schedule with less sun is more enjoyable due to the strong heat. It is worth looking at and opening Tais folded and stacked.
You will find details of amazing colors and dents. Sellers know how to explain the details of the designs and origins, if questioned.
Bargaining is part of the deal.
Xanana Gusmão Reading Room
This place is located in the heart of Dili, easily accessible by taxi, on foot or by bicycle. The Reading Room Xanana Gusmão has much to offer.
From the personal relics of Gusmao, local art, exhibitions, a library open to the public and filled with eager students who browse through the many books on offer, an outdoor area where people can sit, read, talk and relax, an exhibition of geology showing dinosaurs and fossils found in prehistoric East Timor, a children ‘s area with books and games, free internet and computer access, and an audiovisual space, this place has it all.
They also organize many workshops and activities for local residents, including discussion groups, debates, Portuguese and English classes, and often cultural events such as dance and music. If you come to Dili, this is a must do, you will not be disappointed.
When to go?
May is the start of the dry season and when the Sunset Fair at Cristo Rei is held.
The dry season is also when the bulk of visitors descend on Dili East Timor. June has the Dili Marathon, while the Tour de Timor cycle race is held in September.
In October whales begin migrating through the Wetar Strait.
For those visiting around the major religious holidays, expect to see parades at Easter and ornately decorated nativity scenes in the lead-up to Christmas.
Diving off the Dili coast is great year-round.
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